How much time for yourself have you taken out of your week?
“How much time for yourself have you taken out of your week?” I asked a group of women sitting on the floor.
The sun was shining over the entrance of the tent and a gentle breeze was dancing at the back creating a pleasant contrast. I looked into the eyes of these strangers and basked in the deliciousness of in-person facilitation and the sweetness of a women’s circle embracing self-love and assertiveness.
The woman on my right answered, then the next, and the next, and so on. Each of them sharing a pearl of wisdom on how to make themselves a priority and also, each and every one disclosing some degree of discomfort or newness in creating me-time.
Women are instinctively designed to tend to others’ needs before their own. We are taught to look after the children, the elderly and the ill in the family. We are expected to prioritise the tasks our managers have no time for. No wonder that looking after our own needs, wants or desires can feel like something we have to do secretly or in our spare time - if there is any left at the end of the week.
One hour a week.
Many years ago I told my friend Tania, that I had started scheduling one hour a week in my calendar as a way to protect the restoring practice of self-care. I still remember the look on her face. Tania, a strong independent woman, looked at me with surprise, jaw dropped, eyes wide open and said: “that’s incredible that with a job and a one year old you can take a whole hour a week to look after yourself”.
One. Hour. A. Week.
One hour a week of self-care seemed incredible to her, as well as to many of my clients. Even more so if they are working mothers of young children. It’s almost as if becoming a mother equates to having your needs swept under the carpet, rather than increased. It isn’t just biological mothers who fall into this idea that your needs are less important than those in your family, community or team.
But every time we take some time for ourselves, there is a voice in our head that tells us we have been selfish and that is bad and we shouldn’t be doing it.
And especially in an individualistic society like ours, where there is so much attention on our own personal journey, our achievements and self-development, ‘being selfish’ can be seen as an act of walking all over others.
There is selfishness and selfishnes
Taking some time to focus on yourself and refill your reservoir, to tend to your needs and desires means that you can come back to the people in your life recharged and able to properly engage with them.
It is never about ignoring others or doing it at their expense. It is about looking after yourself so you can give others your best.
By strengthening the relationship we have with ourselves, by practicing saying YES to us and NO to others, we can make more space, bring more attention and care to those we love, live and work with.
Refilling our emotional reservoir
I like to think of self-care as a practice that refills my emotional reservoir and ensures I don’t go into deficit.
Imagine a reservoir above a little village. You are the village. The reservoir it’s your physical and emotional energy to support you. When the reservoir is full to the top, you have spare energy to make extra plans, to sort out the garage, to take an old friend who is struggling out to the cinema.
When the reservoir is half full, you have just enough energy to function, to look after your close circle of people and go to work.
When the reservoir goes below half-way, you are into depletion. The longer you stay down here, the harder it will be to refill your reservoir.
Take care of your reservoir so you can not just function but you can look after those you love!
Sometimes one hour a week is all I need to fully function and to fully tend to my daughter, my job, my community. Sometimes life throws me challenges and I need to go to sleep earlier, sit on my own more often, or invest in a massage.
How to refill our emotional reservoir
This simple exercise will help you identify, prioritise and make time for the things that matter most to you: the things that will refill your emotional reservoir.
Me and myself – on paper
You’ll need pen, paper & five minutes for this one. Are you ready?
Set a timer on your phone. Draw a small heart shape in the middle of the page and then jot down all the things that matter in your life - the people or activities that bring you joy - around it.
Write what’s most important close to your heart and the rest all around it in concentric circles.
Once the alarm has gone off, set it for another two minutes. During these two minutes read what you have written out loud. Have the courage to speak it out, not just in your head.
The women at the workshop took great pleasure in speaking it out loud to one another, their eyes were shining, their voices softened and I bet their hearts were swelling with pleasure too.
Connecting with what’s important to you will enable you to make space for it in your life, feeling less guilty about it.
Me and myself – in the calendar
Now that you have your picture with all that matters in your life, make time for it in your calendar.Not just metaphorically but practically: put some time in your calendar to do the things that make your heart sing and make sure you take at least one hour a week to do one of these things ALONE.
Sure, we had plenty of alone time during the pandemic and what most of us crave is connection with others, and I agree: connection is an essential aspect of feeling supported and loved. But taking an hour out of your week to be with yourself doing something that enriches your soul will create a gentle and yet significant shift in the way you approach not just yourself but also the important people in your life.
Reclaim your selfishness, shine bright and bring love to your dear ones.